Have you ever heard the phrase, "If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans"? Well, that totally applies to birth. The one thing you can plan on is birth is unpredictable. With that being said, I am a huge advocate of creating a thoughtful Birth Plan and here’s why. Some birth workers might not recommend their clients create birth plans because either the birth plan is never referenced or it is not taken seriously by the attending staff. Even if this happens at your birth, the process of creating the plan is still of great value as it provides an opportunity for you to consider your preferences and options for all possible situations and outcomes. Creating a plan is also an opportunity for you to have important conversations with yourself and your partner. With couples, it is common for assumptions to be made about what the other person wants or believes. The process of creating a birth plan is an ongoing opportunity for communication, clarity and connection. Nine months of pregnancy is an opportunity for nine months of preparation and exploration that should not be missed or taken for granted.
Spend time creating your visions and desires about how you want your birth to unfold. Putting these onto paper is valuable information for choosing what type of care provider would be in alignment with that vision. For example, if one wants an unmedicated vaginal birth, choosing a hospital setting may not be the best place to achieve that outcome. Other important points to consider are: What are the different birth options in your area? What is the difference between an obstetrician and a midwife? What are the protocols of different hospitals and care providers? Do you want a care provider? Do you imagine birthing in a hospital, birth center or at home? With midwives or perhaps unassisted? Would a doula (birth support professional) be helpful for you? What are the differences in environment and protocol between a hospital setting, birth center and home birth setting?
Important thoughts to consider while creating a plan are:
What do I actually want and why?
Do my partner and I want the same things?
Do we believe the same things?
Is our level of trust and understanding surrounding birth the same?
What do we know and don't know?
What was our own birth story and how has it shaped our views?
What are our options, what do they mean, are they important to us?
Most obstetricians and midwives offer free consultations, so schedule interviews with multiple care providers to get a clear picture of who is out there, what options they offer and how they suit your needs. Ask lots of questions and be sure to ask for clarity on things that you don’t understand. During the interviews, share your preferences - gauge their reactions and responses. This can give you valuable insight on how their protocols align with your wishes and desires. Remember, you are the customer choosing to hire people to work for you. Be sure to include your newborn into your birth plan. There is a great deal of research correlating the importance of mother/baby bonding and healthy psychological and physiological development. This is especially important during what has been coined “The Golden Hour”; defined as the first hour after birth.
Educate yourself! Gaining knowledge about pregnancy testing, labor and birth interventions and newborn care protocols is helpful in keeping you in the driver’s seat of this journey. Many tests and procedures are simply “routine” and often unnecessary. With prior planning it is easier to opt out of certain procedures if you do not want them for you and/or your newborn. An effective tool to utilize in your process is the BRAIN acronym. (Benefits - Risks - Alternatives - Intuition - Nothing). For example, while considering the option of induction to start labor and how it may fit into your birth plan, run the scenario though this model.
First, what are the benefits of making this decision now; second, what are the risks involved with the procedure; third, are there alternatives and if so what are they?; fourth, what does my intuition say to do (never underestimate the power of a pregnant person’s intuition); and lastly what happens if I wait and/ or do nothing? This simple tool can help you navigate decisions that are difficult while developing your birth plan as well as when things come up in real time. If you are planning a home birth or birth center birth with midwives, make sure you have a plan in place for the unexpected. If there is a need for hospital transport it is much better to have explored the possibilities and potentialities of that experience rather than trying to navigate it in the emotion of the moment.
Keep in mind that a birth plan is a living document. It can change and evolve as you do throughout pregnancy. This is your journey, you are in charge! You can change your mind as much as you want.
Remember, a birth plan is a way to educate yourself and prepare for the tremendous and sacred rite of passage that birth is. The more informed you are, the more options you have and the greater your chances at having a positive and empowering birth experience.
Anna Demetra Badoian in a Holistic Care provider in Houston, Texas specializing in Arvigo®Therapy, Structural Integration, Pregnancy+Postpartum Care. She can be contacted through her website annademetra.com.